One mark of a good book is that you are truly sorry to say goodbye to the characters when you come to the final page. Jonathan Evison’s third novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, definitely fits the description. Yes, it is a road trip tale that plays on the “hitting rock bottom and making your way back up” theme. But any plot clichés can be forgiven when a book’s major players are such a joy to spend time with.
Following a horrific tragedy that the reader is slowly given clues to throughout the novel, our humorously named protagonist Benjamin Benjamin finds himself nearing 40 with no family, no money and very little motivation to live. He becomes a caregiver to Trev, an acid-tongued teenager suffering from muscular dystrophy. Evison imbues their exchanges with the darkest of humor—including that of the sexual and scatological variety—and an obvious affection for a character who never stoops to becoming the embodiment of a sappy “lesson teacher.” Evison makes it apparent, in fact, that Trev would give a swift middle finger to any such individual.
The excuse for the road trip Benjamin and Trev embark upon is to pay a visit to Trev’s estranged father. But the reader knows that the real motivation for both of them is to shake up their less-than-satisfying lives. Evison has the enviable ability to weave together a funny, tragic and very entertaining story. This reader would be more than happy to pick up a sequel.